Growing Beets

December 7, 2005

This entry on growing beets is a follow-up to yesterday’s post which was devoted to planting red beet roots and getting them off to a good start in the garden.

After the initial thinning you should continue thinning the plants throughout the season to maintain adequate space between the growing beet roots. Use the thinnings as baby beets and enjoy the beet greens in salads or cook them like spinach in your favorite recipes.

Many gardeners who grow beets fail to take advantage of the large quantities of beet greens which are tasty and very nutritious. Harvest a batch of the beet greens by picking a leaf or two from each plant without actually pulling the roots. You can repeat this process every week or two throughout the growing season.

The beet roots can be harvested at any size that you prefer. Some varieties are best harvested when small for gourmet “baby beets,” while other varieties can grow to enormous sizes with no loss of quality, tenderness, or flavor. If you’re interested in a delicious recipe for cooking fresh beets try baking them just as you would prepare a baked potato.

Growing beets is made easier by the fact that they aren’t prone to attacks from insects or diseases. Leaf miners occasionally invade the leaves, but don’t cause as much damage as they do to Swiss Chard, and the affected leaves can simply be removed. Black spots on the roots can be a sign of a mineral deficiency and indicate a need for soil improvement or organic fertilization.

Popular red beet varieties include Detroit Dark Red, Bull’s Blood, Cylindra, McGregor’s Favorite, Lutz Green Leaf, Early Wonder, and Ruby Queen. For a change of pace that will enliven the kitchen as well as the garden, try Burpee’s Golden, or the white roots of Albino Improved. There’s also an unusual beet called Chioggia that grows a red and white stripped interior.

Lutz Green Leaf, also known as Long Seasons is my personal favorite. They can be planted in early spring and will continue growing until the fall. The roots will reach enormous sizes, but remain sweet and tender.

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  • Doris Lewis

    Beets — The beets come up with red leaves & then don’t grow very much. These are Detroit Dark Red. What would be the problem??

  • Kristine Kelly

    I believe I’ve left my beets too long in the soil as when I finally harvested them they had gotten enormous and had lost most of their color turning a pale cream color. Am wondering if they still have any nutrients and will be still as tasty as the first harvest of luscious red smaller beets. Also, I live in So Calif. so would like to know the best time to plant beets.
    Thank you for your time.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Kristine, it all depends on the variety of beet that you are growing. Some like Lutz Green Leaf can be left to grow to enormous sizes with no loss of quality, while others should be harvested earlier or they will become tough, woody, and not be as edible or nutritious. Many gardeners plant their beets in early spring which is fine but I have a habit of planting them in late spring and grow varieties that can be left in the garden until fall when they can go into storage. In many climates, probably including yours, you can sow another crop of beets in late summer to produce a fall harvest as well. Good luck.

  • John

    I have tried to grow beets in Huntsville ON. and I get great tops but almost no beet root. My radishes grow the same. Please advise what the problem might be. Thanks.

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